FAQs About TENS Electrotherapy Units

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We do not have to stand on electric fish as the Romans did in ancient times to relieve pain. Many people today are looking for answers to their questions about reducing their chronic or acute pain. They have heard of the TENS units, yet do not understand the working capabilities of the TENS device for lessening their pain. The TENS units have become very well liked to use at home nowadays. We hope we have anticipated your questions and answered them here for you.

1. What does a TENS Unit do?

A TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) device provides a gentle treatment for giving you a measure of pain relief. It stimulates nerve endings that blocks pain signals going to the brain. Without the brain signaling pain, you will not feel pain. The unit is used for chronic and acute pain. When you place the electrode pads on the area of pain, the electrical impulses travel the nerves to the brain to encourage the production of endorphins produced by the central nervous system and the pituitary gland. Encephalin, the body’s innate opiate painkiller in the brain is also stimulated to generate analgesics. Do not purchase a TENS for undiagnosed pain that might be an underlying medical condition. The TENS does not correct a medical problem; it helps with pain only.

2. Is the Electrical Current Harmless?

The TENS electrical current is completely harmless. When used as instructed you will have pain relief. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration), to ensure your safety, approves the units. However, you should not use the device on your face or head, or if you have a pacemaker for your heart. There are micro current units available that are good for the head, neck, and face and used for migraine headache therapy.

The very successful and valuable unit is praised by doctors, chiropractors, physiotherapists, pain health centers, and other professionals in the world of medicine. When using the device your pain will lessen and you will no longer need pain medication.

3. What Type of Pain is TENS Used for?

ArthritisCancer PainCarpal Tunnel Syndrome
FibromyalgiaFootJoint Aches
KneeLower BackMenstrual Pain
Migraine HeadachesMuscle PainMultiple Sclerosis
Neck PainOsteoarthritisPeripheral Nerve Injuries
Phantom Limb PainPost-Operative PainSciatica
Shingles PainBursitis PainShoulder Pain
Sprains/StrainsTendonitisSports Injuries
Trigeminal NeuralgiaWhiplashTension Headaches

The TENS is wonderful for muscle spasms, swollen joints, to relax muscles, and have a sense of total body calming and unwinding. Take your shoes off, put your feet up, and use the TENS for lessening pain.

Note: Do not use the TENS if you have a cardiac pacemaker, defibrillator, or an internal TENS unit, or other heart problems, metal devices or screws implanted, are pregnant, or have epilepsy. Never use on the neck, face, or head without contacting your healthcare provider. Do not use if you have circulation problems without first consulting your doctor.

4. Are there any Contraindications using TENS?

A TENS unit has no side effects (contraindications). A few people may not be able to use it, and that is why it’s always recommended you talk with your doctor first. Therapists, chiropractors, and physicians are aware of the TENS device and are able to give you trusted information for your specific needs. You can continue taking any medications using the unit; however, if you take pain medication, you might be able to eliminate it or reduce it drastically.

5. Is the TENS Effective?

Yes. Use the unit as directed, with the drug-free therapy that is safe to use, and is tolerable by many pain sufferers when they start slowly increasing the intensity level to be comfortable for alleviating pain.

There are no long- or short-term risks to your health with the 100% safe TENS. More and more doctors recommend the unit and patients have experienced great results.

6. Why Use a TENS Unit?

With no side effects, except for about 2 to 3% having common allergic or sensitivity to the electrode pad material or the gel, you will see good results using the TENS to lessen your pain. By the way, you can purchase low-allergy electrode pads online.

7. How Long Before the TENS Works for Me?

This will vary for each person and his or her level of pain. Some TENS users find immediate relief within a few days. Some find relief within 15 minutes. Others need to use the unit daily. You can safely use the unit from 20 minutes to an hour each time up to 2 to 4 times every day. Check with your healthcare provider to see how that will work for you for faster pain relief. The TENS is harmless, nontoxic, and reliable for long-term therapy.

8. Does TENS Cure Pain?

The stimulation from the unit will give you temporary relief from pain without using pain medications if the pain is not too severe or long lasting. When used in combination with pain management, for example, cold or hot packs and wraps, physical therapy, chiropractic and maybe a need for a mild pain medication, you will feel a sense of relief from excruciating pain. For instance, whiplash used with chiropractic can be cured. Again, it depends on the pain condition and the person with the pain.

9. Can I Wear TENS Anywhere?

Because it’s hard to notice being so small, the TENS can be worn to your office, when traveling, walking, biking, hiking, gardening, and exercising—except anywhere with water: the swimming pool, shower, or tub. The gel pads have no smell. You can wear it without it being noticed under loose-fitting clothing. Some battery-operated units are only about an inch thick the size of a credit card without seeing the wires. Perspiring can loosen the pads, so you might want to use medical tape to hold them in place when doing anything strenuous.

10. Why do We have Pain?

Pain tells us something is wrong with our body. It is a warning signal telling us we have an illness, an injury, or forewarning of something happening with our body. If you had no pain, and some have a medical condition feeling no pain, we would not know when to see the doctor about it or to remove ourselves from danger. The electrical signals travel the nerve pathways in the central nervous system to the brain’s pain receptors alerting us to a problem.

11. What are the Advantages of using TENS?

  • Appeals to the patient and healthcare provider.
  • Non-invasive pain management without painkillers.
  • Portable and easy to take with you.
  • User friendly and safe to use at home.
  • Patient management increasing pain relief.
  • After the initial purchase cost, battery and electrode pads/wires are inexpensive. Cheaper in the long run than analgesic medications.
  • Side effects can be a sensitivity of the skin to the components.
  • The TENS unit is not addictive. What a good thing!

12. How Does TENS Control Pain?

There are two hypotheses for how TENS mitigates pain. The Gate Control Theory of pain supposes that thoughts and emotions influence the perception of pain. Another is that activation of nerves that do not transmit pain called nonnociceptive (to hurt) fibers interfere with signals from nerve fibers. The gate control theory of pain suggests the spinal cord contains a gate that controls pain signals to the brain.

The electrical impulses move through the skin (cutaneous) nerves inwardly to then on to the spinal cord and brain. Along the way, the gates regulate which signals can go on to the brain. The nerve cannot produce at the same time an impulse for pain and an impulse for no pain. The no pain electrical impulse from the TENS controls the gate overruling the pain signal strength so you notice less pain.

The second theory is the body produces more endorphins when using the TENS. If you have found no relief of pain using drugs—and the miserable side effects—the TENS have been proven to help manage your pain from an illness or injury.

Final Thoughts

TENS units have dropped in price considerably over the last few years. When you purchase your TENS, be sure to check for a Warranty, customer service phone or email address, and instructions for use in the box with the unit. An Electrode Placement Chart should also be included with your device.

Hopefully, the FAQs here have helped you with any questions you’ve had. If you are thinking of purchasing a TENS on the advice of a doctor, you will need a prescription for your insurance to pay. Always contact your insurance about your coverage anyway. You would hate to pay a high-end price of $700 for instance, only to find out your insurance will not cover it. There are many inexpensive units available that are just as good.


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